My nomination is BBC's chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet. Amid the fighting and the ruins of today's wars she reports with compassion, detail and composure. Never flinching as the violence surrounds her, she brings moving, harrowing, guilt-inducing reports right into our living rooms. In Aleppo today she walks among the wounded, the kids, the starving and the calamitous destruction of what was once a living city. The horrors alive in the Middle East are a stain on the modern world. Lyse is the brave handmaiden to our sickening powerlessness.
George Robertson


My nomination picks up on the possibility of a posthumous award [which we allowed in 'exceptional circumstances' – Ed]. My nominee is Leonard Cohen. Cohen throughout his life provided social comment, enjoyment, and most importantly, comfort, solace and inspiration to many millions of people throughout the world. His song writing, promoting peace and love while at the same time recognising that realism must also be accepted, showed that he was not afraid to embrace adversity. It was his acknowledgement of the realism and adversity which faces us all and his reflection on it which provided encouragement to so many people. His work demonstrates that someone can be a true friend even if you have never met. In these days of 'lifetime achievement' awards, it would be highly appropriate posthumously to award Leonard Cohen the title. He is quite simply irreplaceable. In his own words 'There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in'.
Ron Cole


One of the most unexpected (and touching) photographs of the year is of the Queen and Michelle Obama, re-released in April but taken when they first met in 2009. It shows the two women from the back: one tiny, the other 5'11", arms around each other, one at the waist, the other, shoulders. Lawyer, writer and first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama has re-defined the latter role into something warmly accessible, normal and inspirational. A working-class black woman, descended from slaves, whose grandmother cleaned houses for rich white families, she opened the White House to people on the margins of society, embraced war veterans, and was an advocate for low-income students in higher education. She initiated projects against childhood obesity, campaigned for healthy food in schools and passionately promotes the education of girls across the world. She hugs people and is the coolest of cool. She will never run for president.
Jean Barr


My nomination is predicated on two disparate facts: Firstly and most obviously is that a nurse, Pauline Cafferkey, who normally works in the relatively benign environment of a health centre in Blantyre, felt it was her duty to help in mitigating the worst effects of the deadly outbreak of ebola in Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries on the planet, accepting that the risk to her own health and indeed life were considerable. So far so obvious. But secondly, the fact that that same nurse was subjected to the worst effects of the blame culture that prevails in our modern society. Despite having contracted the deadly virus and repeated relapses, she had to face a sanctimonious review of whether she had deliberately concealed her illness, thus failing to abide by some jobsworth's risk assessment. For her courage in face of such bureaucratic nonsense, she gets my nomination.
Bill Mitchell



We sometimes pretended Imad Noureldin was a Harrisman when he sat in the Park Bar. He'd be enjoying a beer and we'd nod in the direction of this dark-featured individual whenever someone asked us who he was. 'He's from Tarbert', we might say. Or Rodil. Or Scalpay. The truth was, however, that he hailed from Aleppo in Syria. A chemistry student, he was at Glasgow University while his brother Khadry worked as a doctor in Gartnavel and the Western Infirmary. An honorary Gael, he spent loads of time with us, grappling with the odd Gaelic expression. 'Tha mi ag-iarraidh pinnt.' Now he is back in his native city with his wife and family. I am still in contact with him, finding out how his son Omar dodges down 'sniper's alley' to study medicine, discovering how often they are without water or electricity... Both he – and his sense of humour – endure.
Donald S Murray



My person of the year is Judy Murray. Rather domestic, I know, and perhaps not very imaginative but my person of the year is somebody who works hard, who, in this increasingly abnormal world, seems pretty normal and who has quietly contributed to the sum of global happiness by producing, nurturing and supporting two sons who are both number one in the world.
Katie Grant



Michael Richard Pence is America’s new vice president-elect and, more importantly, responsible for coining such phrases as 'smoking doesn’t kill’ and 'Donald Trump gets it’. In the past he’s criticised working mothers for stunting children’s ‘emotional growth’ and has voted against addressing gender discrimination in the workplace. Throughout his political career he has cut vital funding to nonprofit organisation Planned Parenthood and backed Trump’s anti-choice stance. Yet since Trump won presidency, Planned Parenthood has received more than 315,000 donations, 82,000 of which were made in the name of Mike Pence. I, for one, commend Governor Pence for these generous donations. Truly, he deserves each of the 82,000 thank you cards he will receive in return.
Rachel Sharp



On being asked for a nomination, only one name came immediately to mind. It has been a year in which dominant, self-aggrandising males, ruthless rich men, hogged the headlines. But there was one woman above all who touched our hearts, one from a relatively humble background who worked quietly but effectively on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged, especially women, for Oxfam and latterly in Parliament. Briefly, following her tragic death murdered by a fanatic for her political views, Jo Cox reminded us of what should be the motivation behind the actions of politicians. For that short period in 2016 we wept for what might have been, a better less divisive world.
Anthony Seaton


Continues tomorrow...

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Today: Church-going Christmases


Christmas 1762
James Boswell
The night before I did not rest well. I was really violently in love with Louisa. I thought she did not care for me. I thought that if I did not gain her affections, I would appear despicable to myself. This day I was in a better frame, being Christmas day, which has always inspired me with most agreeable feelings. I went to St Paul’s Church and in that magnificent temple fervently adored the God of goodness and mercy and heard a sermon by the Bishop of Oxford on the publishing of glad tidings of great joy.
From: ‘London Journal’ by James Boswell

Christmas 1985
Alan Clark
Today we had the [departmental] carol service...I only can properly enjoy carol services if I am having an illicit affair with someone in the congregation. Why is this? Perhaps because they are essentially pagan, not Christian, celebrations.
From: ‘Alan Clark Diaries’

Christmas 1995
Alec Guinness
Our parish priest, Mgr Murtagh, kindly arranged things so that M could come to Midnight Mass avoiding the steps up to the church by using the sacristy. She can’t cope yet with stairs. As always for Midnight Mass, the place was crowded, the singing of the choir was somewhat elaborate but refreshingly vigorous. I spotted that my fly was unzipped when giving voice to ‘Silent Night’, a sure sign of advanced age in the male of the species.
From: ‘My Name Escapes Me’ by Alec Guinness

Christmas 1998
Alan Bennett
A wet dark day as it has been all through Christmas. Train late into Leeds, where we pick up a car and drive out through Garforth and
Castleford to Methley. The church (noted from Pevsner) is locked and when we go to the village for the key the vicar, a woman, asks me for some identification. When I show her my railcard she glances at it briefly and says, ‘Yes I thought it was you’ (which isn’t quite what identification means).
From: ‘Untold Stories’ by Alan Bennett

Tomorrow: Miserable Christmases

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Kenneth Roy
A monstrous new 'super school'
14.12.16

Islay McLeod
Scotland's invisible children
16.12.16


Walter Humes
Bad marks: the declining standards of Scottish education
09.12.16

Nannie Sköld
So much anger, so much love
15.12.16

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Kenneth Roy’s new book, 'The Broken Journey: a life of Scotland 1976-99', charts in vivid and compelling detail the events and personalities of the last quarter of the 20th century in Scotland.

Published in hardback by Birlinn, 'The Broken Journey' is available direct from the Scottish Review at £25 (inc p&p). To order your copy or copies, please click below or call 01292 478510 with credit/debit card details.

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